Return on Investment – LovelyOcean Relishes Artistic Focus on ‘No Down Payment’

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LovelyOcean celebrates pursuing her artistic endeavors on “No Down Payment.” Illustration courtesy of artist

For LovelyOcean, a full-time focus on music will pay dividends for years to come.

The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter relishes the freedom and gratification of pursuing her emerging creative endeavors on “No Down Payment,” now available on all streaming platforms.

“I like to think of ‘No Down Payment’ as a form of background motivation. It’s like, ‘Yeah, this music isn’t paying any of the bills yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t someday.’ I think it’s important that we continue to work on things we love as to not get worn down by work, life and other bullshit,” said LovelyOcean.

“Up until this point, I had been working in the social work field, and it was killing my spirit. But it served as the biggest motivation to work on music so I could get out. I quit my job back in March, and I’ve never felt better.”

LovelyOcean celebrates her “No Down Payment” independence as shiny, cyclical synths, jumpy bass and gentle percussion smoothly glide alongside hypnotic, ‘90s-esque beats.

She reflects, “Just trying to break the mold/They warned me as a youth/Back when I played with dough/Things come natural/Need it off top/The world is gonna feel my flow/No static/We live from the radio/Tryna make it through/Ima shine like I was radial/And have a packed house/Up at SoFi Stadium.”

“Somedays I’m like, ‘Damn, I really wish this shit would pay off soon.’ It can be really discouraging to put your all into music, but no one is really fucking with it. I don’t like to have to ask people I’m close with if they’ve listened to the song. I don’t like begging for support,” LovelyOcean said.

“I’ve been using this time to recover and refocus so I can work on an album, but at this moment my songwriting waterfall is kinda dry. I’m glad I don’t feel stressed by work anymore, but I do feel more pressure to be artistic.”

LovelyOcean started co-writing her creative autonomy anthem with Chuck Chill in January. They recorded the track together in their magical closet studio and watched it quickly flourish over several days.

“It took about two days for the song to be written and probably two days to record it. I’ll spend one day recording it so I can get comfortable with it, and then I’ll record it another day so I can really solidify the vibes. Chuck Chill came up with the concept for the song and the majority of the lyrics,” she said.

“This is the first time I have ever let someone else take over the writing, but I knew he would do the song justice because he’s an excellent artist. Chuck Chill and I have collaborated on multiple tracks so far. He was featured on ‘Theta Waves’ on my last EP, and I’ve been featured on a few of his mixtapes.”

Continue reading “Return on Investment – LovelyOcean Relishes Artistic Focus on ‘No Down Payment’”

Identity Crisis – Gaucho Major Uncovers Past Selves on New ‘Blue Ribbon’ Single

Blue Ribbon Single LARGE
Gaucho Major’s “Blue Ribbon” challenges people to reveal their true identities.

Gaucho Major keenly uncovers the duplicitous side of human nature.

The Los Angeles pop-rock duo of Max Espinosa (vocals, guitar) and Mike Pappas (songwriting, production) shines a jazzy, truthful light on “Blue Ribbon,” an eye-opening, witty new single that instantly challenges people to reveal their true identities.

“It’s basically a song about the American lie in privilege. There’s a lot that goes into that, and there’s a lyric in there, ‘Be happy that you’ve left where you’ve come from.’ While growing up in LA, I saw people come here from all walks of life,” said Espinosa.

“I noticed a difference with someone coming from Detroit, St. Louis or Cleveland; they just wanna erase where they came from. They’re happy to shed it. But when I go to New York, people are like, ‘I’m from Pittsburgh, or I’m from Ann Arbor,’ and they’re just proud about it. They’re past lives aren’t thrown away.”

Throughout “Blue Ribbon,” Gaucho Major elegantly retrieves those discarded past selves as thoughtful piano, soulful sax, mystical electric guitars, sauntering bass and cozy drums unearth the importance of living authentically.

Espinosa playfully sings, “Be happy to leave where you came from/There’s everything here under the sun/The crowd back there/They ain’t got much to go on/Careful where you step, son/We just did the lawn/It’s good to be on the board/Even if you’re a pawn.”

“The verses are very much like a parody and a caricature’s story. When I get to the chorus, I actually sing and do my normal voice. It’s a wink, a smile and a nod to what people expect in life, especially with the rise in social media, and people filtering out 90 percent of their real life to give you a 10 percent glimpse of the good times,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa and Pappas started delving into “Blue Ribbon’s” refreshing theme of uncovering inauthentic selves last summer. The duo received a songwriting prompt for the track from the KDC Guild’s Kristopher Malone, who will include “Blue Ribbon” on his upcoming multimedia concept album, Welcome to the Cise Pavilion.

“We basically brainstormed this certain segment of the story, and it was this long scene of what an ideal life would look like. It’s the notion of a trophy family and how you’re supposed to live in America, and I thought it was perfect for me to write about it. That was enough for me to get going on creating the soundscape and everything for the song,” said Espinosa, who’s influenced by Steely Dan.

To solidify the track’s first-rate, jazz-inspired sound, Gaucho Major invited a talented roster of musicians, including Kevin Hannah (drums), Kateri Lirio (piano) and Kapil Raman (sax), to collaborate remotely for “Blue Ribbon” over a six-month period.

“We started in July with the skeleton build to get the bones of the track, and that’s just the thematic elements of the song and not even the lyrics or anything. When it came to recording the parts, we did a rough demo in August to send out to our drummer,” Espinosa said.

“We picked Kevin because he’s got amazing gospel chops; he’s got groove. When we got the drums back, we decided to build everything on top of it. We ended up getting those back in late September and recorded everything else in October. And then we sent it off to get mixed in November.”

Continue reading “Identity Crisis – Gaucho Major Uncovers Past Selves on New ‘Blue Ribbon’ Single”

‘Tuesdays’ with Ania – New Single, Video Celebrate Escaping Manic Mondays

Every Tuesday, Ania breathes a sigh of relief.

The Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso slowly exhales after getting through another manic Monday.

“I’ve found that most people are tired and angry on a Monday. By Tuesday, they seem lost and ready to procrastinate again. I make it a point each Tuesday to escape a bit and visit a local hiking spot to get through the rest of the week,” said Ania Thomas, aka Ania.

Ania appropriately celebrates her favorite workday and weekly nature jaunt through a thrash-tastic new single, “Tuesdays,” now available on all streaming platforms.

Boisterous Black Sabbath-esque electric guitars, galvanic bass, propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fuzzy synths and delicate strings instantly release inner workplace tensions and rejuvenate weary minds throughout the 4.5-minute therapeutic banger.

Ania calmly sings, “And the road, and you climb some more/To find that one path about you/Still shines down on you/Are you forgetting it?/Climb, climb to get to the road you once knew/Where it shines down on you/Stairs are up the way, you know.”

“I think ‘Tuesdays’ bring a sense of relief by sharing a positive message, especially through the lyric, ‘You’re gonna find a way.’ It’s all about wanting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and staying positive while living through our current times. For me, nature has always brought a sense of healing both physically and mentally,” Ania said.

“Romantic and transcendentalist poets created a movement in which freedom and emotion were favored over intellectual growth. True inspiration is beyond our human reasoning and intelligence can only take us so far as people. There is more to life than just intelligence, including freedom of self-expression, intuition, inspiration and the pursuit of truth. It’s really a matter of taking care of ourselves in a spiritual way.”

Along with director Joseph Cordova, Ania beautifully conveys the spiritual power of nature in a compelling video for “Tuesdays,” which features breathtaking overhead shots of Los Angeles’ Runyon Canyon Park against a hazy city backdrop. A gold pocket watch slowly dangles in the video’s opening sequence to symbolize the gradual passage of time in an isolated world.

“Joseph and I went to one of my favorite places that I regularly visit whenever I feel down or need a break from the world. It’s my favorite hiking spot in Los Angeles,” said Ania, who climbs throughout the hills while shredding her green Ibanez.

“We used a pocket watch because I wanted to show the concept of time and how it’s always running away from us as creative people. At the same time, it’s also a social construct. It took us a year and a half to finish the video due to complications from the pandemic, but finishing this project proved to me that you have to keep going in spite of what else is happening around you.”

Continue reading “‘Tuesdays’ with Ania – New Single, Video Celebrate Escaping Manic Mondays”

Bring to Life – Jeff Socia Provides Thoughtful ‘Release’ on New Debut Album

Jeff Socia performs live in northern Michigan. Photo courtesy of Jeff Socia

Four years ago, Jeff Socia decided to reenter the Michigan music scene.

The Traverse City Americana singer-songwriter created a home studio, started playing live shows and honed his songwriting chops.  Socia continued to build his momentum until last March when COVID-19 hit and instantly shuttered the live music world.

“I started booking some stuff on my own, and then last year happened. It’s probably a story you’ve heard a lot from other people – the lockdown was the time they were going to record and release something. I decided to go along with that story and take it one step further,” he said.

Nine months later, Socia dropped his thoughtful, melodic full-length debut album, Release, via all streaming platforms. The fervent 10-track project whips listeners down cozy, winding alt country roads filled with life-changing tales of love, growth, gratitude and risk.

“Everyone needs a release a right now, and this one happened to be mine. Hopefully, when someone listens to it, this can be their release. It’s been cool for me to hear from people who listen to my songs from elsewhere,” Socia said.

“I’ve gotten feedback from people in Ireland and other places. What we do here touches other people, and it’s their release. You never know what you’re going to put out there and how it’s going to affect someone. That’s why I called it Release.”

Continue reading “Bring to Life – Jeff Socia Provides Thoughtful ‘Release’ on New Debut Album”

False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose

Joss Jaffe unearths political fallacies on “Promises,” with reggae legend Mykal Rose. Photo – Kim Jae Yoon

For Joss Jaffe, today’s global political climate runs rampant with false promises.

The Oakland, California world music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares this widely held notion in his latest reggae-infused single, “Promises,” with Mykal Rose.

“Ultimately, I think politics is always divisive. Peter Tosh would call it ‘politricks.’ But yes, this period in time has been especially unprecedented. Although I do not call out Trump by name in this song and take the approach of an old-school reggae song, where we speak in metaphors and allegory stories, clearly it references the cascade of lies and falsehoods that seem to never end,” Jaffe said.

“However, yes, the song also speaks to the timeless, and sadly, seemingly ever relevant problems this poor type of leadership brings, and it’s not just limited to the U.S.”

Throughout “Promises,” Jaffe and Rose quickly unstitch the increasing fallacies Trump and other controversial political figures continually weave into society’s fraying fabric. Vibrant horns, thumping drums, bouncy bass, breezy synths, spirited organ and peppy electric guitar seamlessly undo each tumultuous thread.

Rose eagerly chants, “Promises are a comfort to a fool/All they wanna give is promises/We know the golden rule/Yet they wanna use you like a footstool.” In response, Jaffe soulfully sings, “Step on you to reach that goal/And cast you aside when you played your role/Promises that keep on saying/But then you look at them and see they’d never change.”

“My vision for this song is something that’s uplifting and triumphant over adversity. Something that rises above the current moment, however difficult it is, and gets back in touch with the universal consciousness,” Jaffe said.

With honest, reflective lyrics and a hypnotic reggae sway, Jaffe and Rose triumph with “Promises” as a fitting theme song for our turbulent political and social times. The track serves as the duo’s second dynamic collaboration since the divine, glistening “Elohim” with Shimshai in 2015 for Jaffe’s Dub Mantra Sangha album.

“Mykal Rose has always been one of my longtime heroes of reggae music. We have a mutual friend named Siah who is his guitar player and produces some of his songs. Mykal is a true legend; rocksteady in the studio and always pushing everyone to capture their best possible take. It was a true blessing,” Jaffe said.

Continue reading “False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose”

Sea Change – LovelyOcean Makes Refreshing Hip-Hop Waves on New ‘Forever’ Album

LovelyOcean gets introspective on her debut album, “Forever.” Photo courtesy of Golden Poppy

For LovelyOcean, the right words bring a welcome songwriting sea change.

The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter poetically shares her innermost thoughts about authenticity, self-awareness, passion and growth on her vintage-inspired debut album, LovelyOcean Forever, which dropped Aug. 14 via all streaming platforms.

Forever started off with the idea of manifesting how I wanted my 2020 to go. I wanted to speak my wishes into existence through music. Words are some of our most powerful forms of manifestation. The themes in this album just came naturally since they’re real experiences,” she said.

LovelyOcean beautifully turns the hip-hop tide through eight reflective tracks infused with shiny synths, slow jams, catchy rhymes, euphoric beats and palpitating electronic percussion. Forever serves as a modern underground mixtape to inspire emerging and established female hip-hop artists looking for a new musical shoreline.

It’s the type of cassette artists would pass back and forth to create a stronger sense of camaraderie, collaboration and community. The exquisite “Forever (Intro)” sets an ideal old-school tone as the mixtape instantly clicks into a worn boombox and compelling skits from “The Maury Povich Show” are interspersed throughout the brief track.

Quiet, thoughtful piano echoes LovelyOcean’s introversion and peaceful presence as she reflects, “I could try to be louder or extroverted, but there’s beauty in my silence. From my silence comes observation, awareness, a story, a song, a forever.”

“I want to say that I started writing in February of this year, but once quarantine started I put everything on pause because I was super uninspired. One day I woke up, listened to two beats and then just started writing. All in all, it took three months to get everything written, recorded and edited. We converted a closet in the living room into our studio so every track recorded was in the closet,” LovelyOcean said.

Continue reading “Sea Change – LovelyOcean Makes Refreshing Hip-Hop Waves on New ‘Forever’ Album”

Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks

As a longtime musician, Marcio Hendrik composes film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio in Rio. Photo courtesy of Marcio Hendrik

Marcio Hendrik relishes solving complex sonic puzzles.

The Rio de Janeiro guitarist-bassist-producer strategically connects discrete audio pieces to create captivating film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio.

Together, those emerging instrumentals unfold a hidden classic-meets-alt-rock world filled with enticing people, places and experiences. With limitless possibilities and choose-your-own-adventure storylines, listeners travel to an undiscovered, intergalactic dimension, a drug-infested Edinburgh and a nocturnal-inspired Hollywood.

“I like to dismantle all the pieces that I put together, like a puzzle, and then dismantle them again to make the music neat and clear,” Hendrik said.

For his latest score, the forceful, driving “Russian Dance” jumps to hyperspace as charging, vibrant electric guitars, booming drums, throbbing bass and crashing cymbals provide a Black Sabbath-esque space jam.

Next, listeners instantly shift to Scotland as “Skag Boys” propels into an alt-punk rock frenzy with swift, crunchy electric guitars, pounding drums, banging cymbals and driving bass in an Irvine Welsh-like heroine culture.

After sonically leaving the U.K., a third Hendrik stop includes a late-night stroll down Sunset Boulevard on “Hollywood Moon” as bluesy, fuzzy electric guitars, shimmering cymbals, delicate drums and thoughtful bass echo along the concrete jungle.

“I have an inclination for making soundtracks, especially because Hollywood has this feel of a classic place. If you see the buildings, it looks like you’re in the ‘50s, and the people you see on the street are totally different. It’s like you’re in a time warp,” said Hendrik, who studied audio engineering abroad at Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute in 2016.

“I put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s delusional walking around Hollywood searching for something that may fulfill their delusion. Sometimes I would go to Jameson’s Irish Pub, and if I got loaded, I would leave the whiskey bar and start walking around Hollywood to talk to everybody.”

Hollywood Moon” also features Hendrik’s mesmerizing instrumental collaboration with Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso, who beautifully shreds throughout the haunting psych rock track.

“I found her online during social isolation. I was building my website for my production company, and I started reaching out to people saying, ‘Hey, do you want to produce or record something?’” he said.

“I was on Facebook, and I added Ania because I saw she attended the same school I that did in Hollywood. After we had a conversation, I realized she was just like me, a musician who wanted to record. It was amazing because she brought me results within a week.”

Continue reading “Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks”

Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single

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Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.

The Los Angeles pop singer-songwriter co-wrote a peppy, ironic new track, “This is Fine,” about perpetually living in disarray with pop-rock singer-songwriter and producer Una Jensen.

“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.

Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”

“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.

“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”

Boys/Girls

This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.

“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.

Continue reading “Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single”

Atomic Structure – Mason Summit Emits Positive Emotional Charge on New ‘Negative Space’ Album

Mason Summit’s “Negative Space” album brings listeners one step closer to better versions of themselves.

Mason Summit emits an positive electrifying charge on Negative Space.

The Los Angeles indie folk singer-songwriter quickly attracts the “nano” emotions buried deep within the atomic structure of our subconscious on his latest album.

Out Friday via all streaming platforms, Negative Space reveals a microcosm of inner thoughts and deep revelations about failed relationships, reluctant confidants, unspoken feelings, hidden anxieties, turbulent endings, personal resignations, unexpected transitions and closed chapters.

“The overarching themes include a lot of regret and a lot of trepidation until we get to ‘Round January.’ Some of the songs are more personal in that sense than others, and others were more conceptual like ‘Cause for Concern,’ which I had thought of as an album name initially. I thought, ‘People are going to hear these songs, and they’re going to be concerned about my well-being,’” Summit said.

Summit poignantly addresses that fractured sense of well-being throughout Negative Space’s raw, honest 10 tracks. Despite a barrage of dark emotions and difficult experiences, each track moves Summit and listeners one step closer to stronger, wiser and better versions of themselves. Fittingly, Negative Space is akin to chronicling years of internal growth and self-acceptance in a 30-minute span.

“Most of the songs were written in a songwriting class at USC. Some of those came from specific prompts like ‘Round January.’ I probably wouldn’t have written that song had it not been for the prompt,” said Summit, who studied songwriting and graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in May.

“Obviously, you always want them to sound personal, like on ‘Doomed from the Start.’ For that song, I was thinking about my first serious relationship, which started in high school, and how it didn’t last because it was all about learning how to be in a relationship.”

Continue reading “Atomic Structure – Mason Summit Emits Positive Emotional Charge on New ‘Negative Space’ Album”

March ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Sunny State Releases New ‘Human’ Single to Unify Quarantined Fans

Sunny State’s latest single, “Human,” reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunny State understands the concept of “Human” nature.

In their latest single, “Human,” the San Jose, Calif., reggae fusion sextet eloquently reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole idea of the song is that we’re all human, and we all have our struggles. We’re all alone in this, but our solitude in it actually brings us together and unifies us because we’re all going through the same struggle right now,” said Chris Reed, Sunny State’s lead vocalist, ukulelist and guitarist.

Released Friday and featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Human” blends uplifting ukulele, brilliant electric guitar, deep bass, rhythmic bongo slaps and intermittent drum taps into a radiating, inspirational anthem for society’s growing battle against the coronavirus.

Along with Sunny State’s vibrant instrumentation, Reed beautifully sings, “I wanna be the best version of me/Rise with a smile, not need the caffeine/Embracing the moment, not letting it weigh me down/Remembering life’s a gift with a beautiful crown/We’re just human.”

While timely and relevant, “Human” wasn’t initially meant to be Sunny State’s third and latest single from their upcoming debut album. The band’s guitarist, Julian, encouraged Reed to release the single early as way to bring peace, comfort and solidarity to their fans.

“All this COVID-19 stuff had just happened. Everyone was going on lockdown, and I was just watching all these videos of people in Italy. The next day, I was talking to Julian, and he mentioned again how much he liked ‘Human,’” Reed said.

“I asked him, ‘Do you think it’s crazy to release ‘Human’ instead as a single? I feel like it’s a very honest and a self-reflective time.’ He said, ‘No, I think it’s a great idea. We’re all absolutely self-reflective, and we’re going to be doing this for a while.’”

The band also released a new live acoustic performance for “Human” today via Facebook and Instagram. It features Tyler (guitar), James (percussion), Freddie (bass), Roman (keys), Julian and Reed each performing in their individual quarantines. Each member is featured on screen via separate feeds that are brought and recorded together.

Over the next month, Sunny State will continue their “together apart” approach while recording their full-length debut album, which will drop later this year. Reed and his bandmates have been emailing files back and forth to polish and finalize the untitled album’s remaining tracks.

Since forming the band in 2019, Sunny State has released two other powerful singles, the romantic ode to lifelong love, “When You Know,” and the freedom and stewardship anthem, “Solutions.”

In addition to Sunny State, the March edition of “The Stratton Playlist” includes uplifting, groovy and memorable tracks from The Steve Taylor Three, The DayNites, Pajamas, Border Patrol, Ohly, Maggie Schneider, Meredith Shock and 24 more.